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Now, I've done some research by googling about the subject and reading the manual and read other topics about this at stackoverflow.

But still I have a question about the security and secrecy behind the encryption extenstion called sodium.

I use the script in this topic as example: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/34477643/how-to-encrypt-decrypt-aes-with-libsodium-php/34477811

In the example are 2 user developed php functions used for encrypting and decrypting.

It encrypts, but if a hacker wants to decrypt the encrypted string it basically can also use $key = random_bytes(SODIUM_CRYPTO_SECRETBOX_KEYBYTES); to decrypt a string. (or the whole decrypt function in the example)

To me this seems easy for a villain to decrypt. (like if I upload a script at a server and people spy there, how safe is it then? Or when people at their own local servers at home try to decrypt the encrypted messages )

But I'm an absolute noob about this , so I would like to understand why it is difficult for a third person to know the decrypted message, and how sodium is used in a secure way?

I would also like to know if the example above is the only way sodium works or if it is more secure to modify the example ?

  • If you assume that the hacker is already on your server, then yes, they can absolutely gain access to the encryption keys used. But this is a problem of key storage, not of the encryption algorithm, or libsodium specifically. – MechMK1 Nov 7 '19 at 10:39
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If you assume an attacker that has access to crypto secrets, e.g. the (private) keys of the crypto system, all bets are off, no matter what crypto system you are using.

You have to secure the secrets from attackers. Otherwise encryption is worthless. This can take many different forms. One way is a hardware security module, which seeks to ensure that an attacker cannot copy the secrets, even if they gain access to the machine; at worst they can use them, but never copy.

Other ways may be securing the server suffciently, so that the attacker is unable to compromise the secrets, even if they are stored in copyable form.

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General Advice

Know if you need to use libsodium at all! Usually, TLS for encryption in transit is enough, but it depends on your use-case. Make sure that you know what is required of your solution and which algorithms are designed to fill these use-cases. (A good example of what not to do is to encrypt something with AES-CBC and believe this means the data can't be modified.)

Secondly, stick to the recipe! With cryptography, it's easy to get things wrong, even if everything seems to work fine.

Finally, have your code audited by a professional auditor. The ability to do so naturally depends on the scope of your project. If it's a hobby project, then it's not necessary to do that, unless having heaps of money laying around is a problem you want to solve.

Securing your Keys

The problem you indicated in your question is that you are unsure how secure the key-material is. In an example, you stated that if an attacker has access to the script that performs the encryption, they could just steal the key and thus decrypt your data. This is correct, which is why you need to implement proper key management.

Doing that is easier said than done, and proper key management could fill books. The extremely simplified version is that keys need to be generated and then stored, until they are finally rolled over and then either archived or destroyed.

If your code is just $key = random_bytes(SODIUM_CRYPTO_SECRETBOX_KEYBYTES);, what you are doing is literally generating a new key on every call. This might be what you want, but it could also not be what you want. Perhaps you will use that key as a DEK and encrypt it with a public key, or you will send it to the user, or do any number of things with it. Perhaps you would rather derive that key from a password that the user has inputted. You have to know these things beforehand, and make sure you use the right cryptographic primitives.

Securing your Server

It's vitally important that you secure whichever platform you use to store your keys. If an attacker can gain access to the server that runs your crypto, then you can pack up and go home, because the game is over. It is absolutely vital to ensure that an attacker has no way of running their code on your servers, or has any other way to get even a hint at the key material you use.

If you, for instance, store your keys in a 32-byte wide database field, and an attacker can read out your database, then all keys have been leaked.

To Summarize

Crypto is hard, so the less of it that you need to do yourself, the better. Check if you actually need to write crypto-code yourself. If not, don't do it.

Read up on key management, and make sure you have strategies on what to do if things go wrong.

Secure your server, because if it's compromised, you have lost.

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